Business confidence in East of England among lowest in UK

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Confidence in the retail sector improved as non-essential shops were allowed to re-open, but overall expectations are still low (Picture: Shariqua Ahmed)

Companies in the East of England reported that confidence in their business prospects had fallen month-on-month to -45%.

The Lloyds Bank Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses every month and provides early signals about UK economic trends, regionally and nationwide.

Almost a third of firms (32%) in the East of England said that they expected to be operating at more than 50% of capacity by the end of June, but 12% said they didn't expect to be operating at all. The prediction from 20% of firms, regarding how long it would take until they were operating at pre-pandemic levels, was three months, while 16% said they expected it to take over a year.

Although the majority of businesses continued to see demand fall during June, the bigger picture was slightly improved. In May, 72% of businesses said they saw a fall in demand for their products; in June this was 71%, with 3% reporting an increase in demand.

David Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Continuing disruption and uncertainty is clearly still weighing heavily on business leaders’ outlook in the East. There’ll be cause for greater optimism in the coming weeks as more non-essential shops open their doors for the first time in months - and with the anticipated re-opening of the hospitality industry in July.

“We will remain by the side of the region’s firms to help them move forward from this pandemic in as strong a position as possible.”

Nationwide, the construction sector rebounded strongly. The retail and manufacturing sectors also saw improvements. Business confidence within the hospitality and education industries remains low.